James Harden, Josh Smith

Not every win for the Houston Rockets is going to be about James Harden playing like an MVP. Even without Dwight Howard, there were plenty of others to help him, especially Josh Smith, in a 99-94 win over the sliding Dallas Mavericks.

Harden, surprisingly, didn’t try to do too much on his own without Howard, and settled for only 14 field goal attempts (making 50% of them) and scoring 17 points, dishing out eight assists. While he got help from Trevor Ariza and Donatas Motiejunas in the lineup, the Rockets’ biggest edge in this game was their bench, as if to show the Mavericks, who haven’t been able to make their big moves in the offseason and in the season itself translate into both quality and depth, how it’s done.

Smith scored 18 points on a rare night of being successful from long range, making 4-of-5 attempts. He also grabbed 6 rebounds and 3 blocks, leading a bench unit that scored 47 points compared to just 18 by the Mavericks. Corey Brewer, another mid-season pickup that could be starting for a lot of other teams, added 14 points and Terrence Jones, currenlty unable to find his place back in the lineup, finished with 10 points, with the Rockets managing to overcome the fact that they were playing without a center.

Rick Carlisle talked about turnovers (23) being the deciding factor in this game, but it might have more to do with the team that’s been built and then changed with a trade that brought them Rajon Rondo. It was suppose to improve the quality of offense and defense, but it gutted the team’s depth and bench, which so far is proving to be a more negative trade than beneficial, unless Carlisle figures out what exactly isn’t working.

The Dallas Mavericks keep stating that they’re not worried, but losses keep piling up and the top of the West is getting away, not to mention that they’re only 7th in a Western conference with quite a lot of teams that still haven’t given up on trying to make the playoffs despite looking at it from an outsiders viewpoint. The trade for Rajon Rondo looked exciting early on but he hasn’t been doing very well lately, and by tearing apart their bench, it’s hard to find answers when their starting five offense isn’t working.

Rondo was held scoreless in the game, the 21st time it has happened to him, but never when playing so many (34) minutes. He did have six assists but also five turnovers, and in general has done quite poorly in January, with only three games of double figure scoring, and the team in general not improving, going 7-7 this month. For Rondo it also means that his efforts in proving he’s worth a big contract when the time comes are failing him. For the Mavericks it might mean that they made a big mistake.

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